Search continues for missing Dundalk teenager Ciara Breen

Fresh information received about 17-year-old who disappeared from her home in 1997

 Members of the Garda Water Unit search through swamp land  during a new search for Ciara Breen, who disappeared in 1997. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Members of the Garda Water Unit search through swamp land during a new search for Ciara Breen, who disappeared in 1997. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Gardaí have said a new search for missing Dundalk teenager Ciara Breen could last a number of weeks.

The 17-year-old disappeared from her home at Bachelor’s Walk in the town in the early hours of February 13th, 1997.

An extensive Garda search began yesterday morning at Balmer’s Bog off the Ardee Road, a short distance from Dundalk Garda station.

Gardaí said the search was focused on a specific area of the 16-acre site.

The development comes after gardaí investigating the teenager’s disappearance issued a renewed appeal for information in the local media last November.

It was confirmed at the time that two people had recently come forward separately about sightings on the night she went missing.

An appeal on RTÉ’s Crime Call programme in December encouraged others to come forward, and two anonymous letters were received.

Ciara Breen was last seen by her mother Bernadette, who said at the time they had both gone to bed just after midnight.

“I got up at 2am to go to the toilet and I looked in [her bedroom] and she wasn’t there. She didn’t take any money or clothes with her. It is as if she went to meet somebody and did not get back.”

Closure

“We just want closure, that’s it. Closure first, justice second,” a close family friend told The Irish Times yesterday, asking not to be named.

“We are just hopeful that after 20 years all Bernadette wants to do is give her a decent burial at this stage, and hopefully whoever was responsible, he or she has to answer for it. It’s a long, long time.”

Ciara’s disappearance was the focus of Operation Trace, established in 1998 to determine if it was linked to a number of other missing women in the Leinster area. No connection was found nor were any remains.

Disappearances

Deirdre JacobAnnie McCarrickFiona SinnottFiona PenderEva Brennan

No connection was found and none of the women’s remains have been discovered,

Last April a man in his 50s was arrested in connection with Ciara’s case and was later released without charge. He was known to the missing teenager but not related. A file was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Speaking at the search site, Dundalk’s Supt Gerry Curley said a number of lines of inquiry were being followed up following the receipt of new information.

“One line of inquiry is a search of an area known as Balmer’s Bog. It’s a fairly large area. It’s mainly marshland, and the search will be going on for a number of weeks.”

The barren 16 acres, a mixture of rubble-strewn waste ground and bog, is encircled by a high steel fence next to an old railway building that now serves as a bus depot.

Beside it lies a defunct brewery which, locals say, would have been running 24 hours at the time Ms Breen disappeared.

Yesterday afternoon a local Garda search team, together with the sub-aqua unit and members of the Garda Technical Bureau began clearing the land.

Timeline: What happened since Ciara disappeared

February 12th/13th 1997: Ciara Breen (17) disappears from her home on Bachelor’s Walk, Dundalk between midnight and 2am.

1998: The case is investigated as part of Operation Trace, which was established by An Garda Síochána in 1998 to establish if there are links between the disappearances of a number of women in the Leinster area. No connection is found.

July 2014: New witness contacts gardaí with information about a credible sighting of the teenager at about midnight on the night she disappeared after her mother last saw her alive.

November 2014: A different witness reveals another sighting dating back to the time of Ciara’s disappearance.

November and December 2014: Gardaí receive two anonymous letters about the case.

November 2014: Gardaí renew their appeal to the public for information following contact with two potential witnesses. Investigators release an age progression photo of how Ciara Breen might look 17 years later, aged 35.

April 2015: A man in his 50s from Dundalk is arrested but released without charge. He is known to Ciara but not related to her. It was the first arrest in the 18 years since she went missing.

August 18th 2015: Land in Dundalk area of Co Louth is searched in connection with the teenager’s disappearance.